PS5 review – a near-perfect console that delivers peak performance

Our hands-on PS5 review dives into the good, bad, and ugly of Sony’s latest PlayStation console and whether it’s worth the hefty price tag that comes with it.

PS5 review: an image of the PlayStation console on a grey background

Our Verdict

The PS5 consistently delivers the best console gaming experience available right now, with the DualSense controller truly elevating games to another level. It does suffer from storage limitations, but these can be remedied. It’s also quite a bit larger than other consoles; however, this is a price worth paying for the power the PS5 brings to the table.

If you’re on the hunt for a fantastic gaming experience, you’re probably reading this PS5 review hoping to find out whether Sony’s latest PlayStation is the right bit of kit for you – especially with the Xbox Series X, and the cheaper Xbox Series S, also offering access to some of the biggest and best games out there at the moment. If you’re someone who appreciates high-fidelity graphics and fast loading times, you should definitely consider picking up a PS5. However, it isn’t all ray-traced sunshine and 4K roses – there are a few things you should know before you commit. The PS5 isn’t the cheapest bit of kit, and the peripherals only add to the costs.

As someone fortunate enough to have been able to pick up a PS5 on launch day, all the way back in November 2020, I have spent quite a bit of time with this console. While there have been a handful of things that I wish I had known prior to picking one up, I must admit that I have never been more impressed with a gaming platform. I would argue it’s top of the pile when it comes to the best gaming consoles out there right now. However, as thankful as I am to have access to PlayStation’s ever-growing library of outstanding exclusive games, it’s still a big purchase that shouldn’t be taken lightly. So, let’s get stuck into some of the details and see whether this console is right for you.

PS5 design and features

I know looks aren’t everything and it’s what’s inside that counts most, but the PS5 is quite an imposing figure, and there are some interesting design choices worth mentioning. For one, it’s the largest console I’ve ever owned – the largest gaming console of the modern era, in fact. . So, if you’re tight on space when it comes to your setup, you might want to crack out the tape measure and make sure you actually have room for a PS5 by your TV or monitor. Whether you’re planning on using this standing up or lying down, it’s a lot larger than any other current-gen console – and it’s quite a bit bigger than a PS4, too.

I’d also recommend that owners leave a bit of breathing space around the PS5, too. While I haven’t noticed any sort of overheating issues, the air vents on the front and back of the console can get a little dusty – even while out in the open. Thankfully, though, the PS5 features two easily detachable faceplates; they’re a little stiff, but all you need to do is lift a corner and slide them off. This makes keeping the fan inside dust-free a breeze. You can buy other faceplates to customize the color of your console if you’d like to, as well.

One of the things I don’t think I quite appreciated enough at first, though, when it comes to the design of the PS5 are the ports on offer. On the front, this console comes with a standard USB 3.1 Gen 2 port and a USB-C port. While the USB charging cable that comes with the PS5 for the DualSense controller is a standard USB connection, having a USB-C port is something I certainly don’t see very often and it’s certainly useful if you pick something up that has a USB-C port connection without realizing – like I have several times since owning my PS5. For example, I picked up an Apple Watch recently that shipped with a USB-C port charging cable. Without my PS5, I simply would have had no way of charging it.

PS5 review: an image of the front of the PlayStation console's on button

On the back of the PS5, you get another two standard USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, a HDMI 2.1 port for your TV or monitor, and a Gigabit Ethernet port – alongside somewhere to plug in the power, of course. If you have more than one DualSense controller, these additional USB ports are perfect for keeping them charged up. However, they’re also useful if you’re planning on using an external hard drive for storage or wirelessly connecting a PS5 Pulse 3D headset. You’re going to need to stick a dongle into a USB port on your console for that.

If you’re wondering why you might want to use an external hard drive for storage, that’s quite simple: the PS5’s internal SSD isn’t quite big enough if you’ve got a large library of titles you want to constantly switch between. Sony says you’re getting an 825 GB solid-state drive on the box, but this is only around 670 GB in actuality. This is one of the only real negatives about Sony’s console, but it’s something you can fix with a bit of money – and a screwdriver.

Inside the PS5, once you pop off a faceplate and unscrew a panel, you can plug in your own PS5-compatible SSD and improve the internal storage of the device. You can use an external hard drive to store PS5 games, but you can’t launch them from an external device. So, while transferring a game from external storage to internal storage is a lot quicker than completely re-downloading a PS5 game, it can be quite annoying. So, if you’re picking up a PS5, it’s certainly worth looking into getting an internal SSD along with it – budget-depending, of course.

That being said, you can launch PS4 games from any external hard drive device – which helps if you’re upgrading to the next generation of console, but still want to play with your friends who aren’t. The standard PS5 also comes with a disc drive that can read PS4 game discs and play DVDs, standard Blu-rays, and 4K ultra HD Blu-rays. It might be a big bit of kit, but at least you can use it to watch your favorite films in 4K too.

PS5 performance

As you might expect, after talking about 4K ultra HD Blu-rays, the PS5 can deliver some truly breathtaking visuals when it needs to – all while keeping things smooth and consistent. Powered by a custom 7nm AMD Zen 2 CPU running eight cores at 3.5 GHz, this console takes advantage of an integrated GPU running at a variable frequency capped at 2.23 GHZ to deliver a theoretical peak performance of 10 teraflops. If you’re looking at all of that and scratching your head in confusion, it boils down to this: the PS5 really delivers when it comes to performance. It can handle 4K visuals, up to 120 frames per second, ray tracing, and spatial audio – everything you’d expect from the technology expected to deliver breathtaking, blockbuster experiences from the world’s best game developers.

I know performance issues are often dependent on the software, and quite a few PS5 players have reported performance issues with some of the best PS5 games available over the course of the console’s life so far, but I have rarely had a problem when it comes to playing almost anything available on the PS5. In a matter of moments, I can go from the fast-paced multiplayer action in Call of Duty to the truly breathtaking open world of Horizon Forbidden West without even really thinking about loading times.

PS5 Review: an image of Aloy from Horizon Forbidden West

Interestingly, I have found that this also applies to loading PS4 games from an external hard drive. For example, I find that I am often the first player in-game when booting up something like Red Dead Online or Ark Survival Evolved to play with my friends who own PS4 consoles. It’s not something you notice quite as much though after a while, but when these situations roll around and highlight the difference, you can’t ignore it.

In addition to that, the PS5 has been a powerhouse from the start – and, after more than two years of almost daily use, it hasn’t failed me yet. As you might expect, the games available on PS5 are looking better and better all the time. However, this console launched with Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man Miles Morales and Spider-Man Remastered. Supporting solid 60 FPS and ray-tracing modes, these games still stand out graphically to this day. When the PS5 needs to step up, it can with ease – and PlayStation’s developers seem to consistently present games that deliver on what was promised.

PS5 games and entertainment

As you might expect from the most recent generation of consoles, the PS5 is the perfect entertainment hub. If you want to watch something on your favorite streaming service, there’s an app for pretty much every one of them you can think of. You can also, as I have said previously, use it to play DVDs, Blu-Rays, and 4K Ultra HD Blu-Rays. On top of this, you can use music streaming services like Spotify on your PS5, and – now – you can even use Discord chat features. If you’re playing with your friends using this, you can join it as easily as you can a PlayStation party – something that shouldn’t be undervalued as a feature.

PS5 review: an image of the Pulse 3D headset on a grey background

In addition to this, you have access to some of the best games of all time with the PS5. Sony has cultivated a truly fantastic library of platform-exclusive games and you can access a huge number of them using physical media, the PlayStation Store, and the tiered PS Plus subscription service. Released in 2022, in a similar fashion to Xbox Game Pass, players can subscribe to a higher-priced PS Plus to get access to hundreds of PlayStation games – with a number of them being titles originally released on the first PlayStation console, the PlayStation 2, and the PlayStation 3. Without this service, you’d have a hard time playing these games without owning one of the original consoles. So, it’s a fantastic addition to the experience if you’re wanting to play more than the latest titles.

PS5 DualSense controller

I know all of that is sort of what you expect from a current-gen console, but it’s still important to clarify that performance isn’t an issue with the PS5. However, aside from platform-exclusive games, the one big thing that sets this console apart from its arch-rival, the Xbox Series X, is the PS5 DualSense controller. Not only is this a huge improvement on the PS4’s DualShock controller, but it’s also a step above the current Xbox Series controller – which has remained largely unchanged between console generations. If you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in ‘next-gen’ gaming, you need a PS5 DualSense in your hands.

PS5 review: an image of the PlayStation 5 DualSense controller up close on a grey background

Introducing haptic feedback vibrations and adaptive triggers, a game that takes advantage of these unique features elevates itself – Astro’s Playroom, a launch title for the PS5, is a very good example of these being pushed to their limits and one of the few games that takes advantage of the controller’s built-in microphone mechanically. Of course, you can also use this to chat if you don’t have a headset, but it can be quite hard to hear anyone back if you haven’t adjusted your volume levels. Thankfully, though, games often take advantage of the built-in speaker – much like they did with the DualShock – to elevate the experience. These are all things you simply wouldn’t get if you picked up an Xbox Series X.

One thing worth noting is that I have suffered from stick drift, several times while using DualSense controllers. This isn’t a major widespread issue, and the DualSense is chunkier than the DualShock – which makes it feel more durable – but it’s still something that has dampened my otherwise excellent experience using a PS5.

PS5 value

Of course, though, all of this boils down to whether the PS5 is worth your hard-earned cash – or not. Well, at $499.99 USD (£449.99), you’re looking at the top end of the console price range. It’s the same price as an Xbox Series X and quite a bit more than an Xbox Series S. So, if you’re just looking to play a handful of games online with your friends, and you’re not worried about flashy 4K visuals, you might be better off picking up something cheaper.

However, for what you get from a PS5 and its peripherals, it’s absolutely worth the price. I do think that things like the additional faceplates, which you can use to change the color of your console, are a little overpriced – and I haven’t found myself needing a Media Remote either (as I have found my smart TV lets me use my standard TV remote to control media on the PS5).

PS5 review: an image of the PS5 console and all the hardware on a grey background

That being said, something like the Sony Pulse 3D headset is fantastic – it’s easily the best headset I have used with my PS5. It is quite pricey, though, coming in at $99.99 USD (£84.99). It’s an investment, but a worthwhile one if you’re using a headset regularly. It also lets you take full advantage of the spatial audio capabilities this console has, which – again – enhances the overall experience.

Verdict

Sony’s PS5 is easily the best PlayStation console yet and, in my opinion, it might just be the best console ever. It’s certainly my pick for the best gaming console available right now. It launched strong and has continued to grow with the introduction of new features, improved software systems, and more than enough games to keep you busy. If you’re looking for 4K gaming – and you have a TV that can support that – you really couldn’t buy a better console. Whether you’re planning to delve into deep, story-rich single-player experiences or fast-paced multiplayer action with your friends, this bit of kit really does do it all – and it does it exceptionally well.